I started my training contract in 2000 and qualified in 2002 at a firm in London. Then the key qualities tested were academic achievement, intellectual capacity and ability to get on with colleagues and clients. Whilst all of this is still very important the bar is now set significantly higher and the skills and competences firms require are both different and more demanding : team working experience and skills; commercial and business awareness; presentation skills; emotional intelligence; communication skills; ability to articulate advice clearly and concisely; management and leadership ability are all essential requirements in a highly competitive legal sector where clients and colleagues expect the best advice and commercial solutions.
Whilst I do remember completing lots of application forms they were all fairly similar whereas now I sense each firm has a clear idea of their culture and needs and application forms are geared accordingly. That is why applicants must do their research on the firm and really understand what is going on and what makes that firm tick.
I have noticed a change in the attitude to trainees over the last 10 or so years. They are now seen as an investment and an asset. A lot of time is spent finding the right candidates and training them. Clients like consistency and continuity and this has to be demonstrated at every level of fee earner.
The barriers between partners and everyone else have been broken down in recent years and the relation more human which has changed the culture in most law firms and has encouraged a more open and transparent environment where everyone truly works as a team for the benefit of the whole firm. As a trainee this means direct access to the best and often leaders in their particular sectors.
Finally the wider range of seats, the increase quality of the work undertaken by trainees, the relentless growth of firms and acquisition of new clients resulting from a shift in client buying behaviour has led to significant changes in the trainee experience which makes it a far more enriching experience and those qualifying now are much more prepared and ready for life as a qualified solicitor.
Ben Tarrant is a partner with TLT's Real Estate Group and was a trainee in 2000 at Bower Cotton of London.